Pump up the volume

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After years of shirking one another, brands and bands are forming new relationships, and getting involved in the music scene is becoming a no-brainer for advertisers. Lucy Clark finds out why

Music marketing is getting louder by the year.

With revenues in the Australian music industry predicted to grow by 5% a year to 2016 (according to PwC), more and more brands are playing along.

“Reflecting worldwide trends, revenues in the Australian music industry are expected to continue to increase,” says Anthony Hocking, managing director at Peer Group Media. “This highlights the need for marketers to continue to embrace and find innovation within the music market.”

Simon Joyce, CEO of MCM Entertainment Group, believes that music offers brands new and unique ways to tap into audiences. He says: “The traditional advertising model is changing. Everyone is looking for new ways to connect and engage.”

We all know it: aside from sport, nothing engages like music. And, if your target audience is in the 18 to 29-year-old bracket, music is a must.

Jason Fielding, founding partner of The Sound Campaign, says: “Everyone wants to have a good time. When have you ever been to a party and music hasn’t been played? Brands are cashing in on this. And I’m a firm believer that using music to market your brand is much more effective than a TV ad these days. Any brand today worth its salt, which is trying to reach a young audience, has to have a music campaign within its strategy.”

Hocking agrees: “Music generates action through an emotional experience and subsequent word of mouth. This model is still arguably one of the most effective marketing tools.”

Getting in on the act

Whether it’s sponsoring a tour, putting on one-off exclusive gigs, or staging a branded activation at a festival, brands playing in this space are winning.

But there’s one rule they must adhere to: the artist comes first.

Joyce says: “Anyone can put on a gig, but we have to play to artists’ creativity. You have to start with the artist and with what’s going to inspire them – you can’t start with the brand.”

Historically, musicians have doggedly avoided sponsorships and ad deals, viewing them as ‘selling out’, as Fielding explains: “The attitude of the artist community has changed. Artists now see brands as an integral part of their revenue stream.”

But Hocking suggests that artists have simply been left with no choice. He says the decline in record sales due to illegal downloads and music streaming, leading to a boom in global touring by bands – staging shows that are very expensive to put on – has forced them to work with brands.

“This commercial reality and the expense of satisfying patrons’ production expectations have forced artists to accept and embrace brand alignment and investment,” he says, adding: “In the past, an artist’s integrity was questioned if they endorsed a product or attached a logo to their tour poster. Over the past decade, fans have come to embrace brand alignment with their favourite acts.”

As well as putting the artist first, there has to be some brand connection – it has to be relevant, and it must add value.

“Every music campaign we create has got to work in a music and entertainment sense, but has also got to work for the brand,” says Fielding. “There has to be some connection to the brand.”

And Hocking adds: “A brand’s ability to add value to a patron’s experience is key for acceptance. Marketers have had to step carefully in this arena, having to find ways to subtly link an act with a brand or a brand with a festival.”

Can brands afford not to?

With the predicted growth of the local music industry, can brands afford to ignore the potential?

Coca-Cola’s vice president of global advertising strategy and content excellence, Jonathan Mildenhall, doesn’t think so. Through partnering with Spotify for its ‘Share a Coke and a Song’ campaign, Coca-Cola demonstrated its commitment to using music to reach consumers. The campaign is set to roll out across all continents over the coming year.

Mildenhall says: “We have focused on music, as we now have global technology partners that can help us extend the Coca-Cola story through music, and also because we are starting to see much more universality in music.”

Optus also embraced music marketing with RockCorps. With the ‘give, get given’ tagline, the idea is that music fans give four hours of their time to a community project and, in return, get a ticket to a music concert. The initiative is global, with telcos in other countries sponsoring local RockCorps programs.

Marie Najjar, managing director of Public City, which handled corporate communications for Optus RockCorps, says: “RockCorps has essentially unlocked the passion spots of youth and connected it into doing good. Through this, it can deliver exceptional value for brand partners and provide a strong, memorable emotional connection that brands would struggle to achieve on their own.”

But it’s becoming increasingly competitive. Fielding explains: “The desire for brands to have a music campaign is now so compelling, it’s become a much more competitive space.”

The experience

When all’s said and done, aren’t music activations just another term for experiential advertising?

Fielding argues they are not: “A lot of the work we do is experiential – but it’s much deeper than that. We have to have knowledge of the promoters, and it’s a very intense environment to work in. Music engagement is what we do.”

The Sound Campaign is behind music activations such as the Jack Daniel’s Set (a series of concerts with high profile artists in licensed premises), the Jack Daniel’s Barrel House (a festival bar, based on barrel houses in Lynchburg, Tennessee, the home of JD), the Green Room and Club in a Can (festival club rooms for V Energy), and the Debit Mastercard Priceless Music campaign (A-list artists came to Australia for one-off shows, and fans could only buy the exclusive tickets with Debit Mastercards).

The future

Coca-Cola is one brand that sees the huge relevance of music to its target market.

“Coca-Cola, for the last 127 years, has stood for happiness,” says Mildenhall. “Over the next 12 months, we will be looking to ensure that conversation remains relevant to teenagers through, predominantly, the use of music.”

And Joyce is confident that music-enabled content is going to become increasingly central to advertising and marketing. He predicts: “The ideas of creating and enabling content around music were always the nice-to-haves and were the first to go when budgets got cut. Now, we are seeing a flip in strategy where it’s becoming the core idea and the paid media surrounds it. This space will only grow – and it will threaten traditional media to some extent.”

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